Golfer Tiger Woods has described a jibe aimed at him by Sergio Garcia as “wrong, hurtful and inappropriate,” though the world No. 1 insists he wants to move on from their very public war of words.
Garcia apologized to Woods after making a remark about the American at a players’ dinner ahead of the European Tour’s flagship tournament — the PGA Championship at Wentworth that starts Thursday.
Asked on stage whether he would be inviting Woods round for dinner during next month’s U.S. Open Garcia replied: “We’ll be having him round every night… and serving him fried chicken.”
Fried chicken is a common food in the American South, but when used in references to African-Americans, it often implies a negative stereotype.
Garcia and Woods have been at loggerheads since an acrimonious round during the penultimate day of The Players’ Championship earlier this month.
“The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate,” Woods said on his official Twitter account.
“I’m confident that there is real regret that the remark was made. The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.”
Earlier on Wednesday Garcia released an apology via the European Tour and used his pre-tournament press conference at Wentworth to reiterate his remorse.
“I want to send out an unreserved apology, I did not mean to offend anyone,” Garcia told reporters. “I was caught off guard by the question but don’t get me wrong, I understand my answer was totally stupid and out of place.
“I can’t say sorry enough. I would also like to say sorry to the European Tour and my Ryder Cup teammates for taking the shine away from a wonderful dinner that we all enjoyed to that point.
“Finally and most importantly I want to apologize to Tiger and anyone that I could have offended. I feel sick about it and truly, truly sorry. Hopefully we can settle things down and move on.
“As soon as I left the dinner I started to get a sick feeling. I didn’t really sleep at all. I felt like my heart was going to come out of my body.
“It was tough to hit a shot (in the pro-am) without thinking about it.”
Garcia said he had spoken to the head of the European Tour George O’Grady and the PGA Tour to apologize and subsequently will not face any punishment.
His comments came at a dinner to honor the 12 members of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup team, whose dramatic comeback in Chicago to defeat the American team that included Woods has been dubbed ‘The miracle of Medinah.’
The 33-year-old’s Ryder Cup teammate Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, later tweeted when asked about the fried chicken comments: “Private/humor filled environment but he (Garcia) shouldn’t have said it #slip.”
Fuzzy Zoeller comments
Woods and Garcia have long enjoyed a fractious relationship that was again highlighted when they were paired together during the penultimate round of The Players’ Championship earlier this month.
Garcia claimed he was disrupted during one of his shots after the gallery following Woods cheered as the 14-time major winner pulled a club out of his bag that signaled his intention to go for the green despite being in the rough.
Garcia sliced his shot and made a bogey that saw him relinquish the one-shot lead he held at the time.
After the incident Garcia told reporters: “I think that I try to respect everyone as much as possible out there. I try to be careful what I do to make sure it doesn’t bother the other players.”
Woods responded by saying: “It’s not real surprising that he’s complaining about something,” prompting another provocative comment from the Spaniard: “That’s fine. At least I’m true to myself. I know what I’m doing. He can do whatever he wants.”
Woods went on to cement his status as the world No. 1, winning the tournament by two shots with Garcia eventually six back after he faltered on the notorious 17th island hole, which is surrounded by water.
The row rumbled on into this week as Woods was asked at a press conference whether he would consider contacting Garcia to end their spat. “No,” came his brief response.
Upon hearing that, Garcia hit back by reportedly telling a function in London: “He called me a whiner. That’s probably right. It’s also probably the first thing he’s told you guys that’s true in 15 years. I know what he is like. You guys are finding out.”
Garcia’s remarks are similar to those made by two-time major champion Fuzzy Zoeller in 1997 after Woods won The Masters.
Zoeller suggested at the champions dinner the following year Woods would choose to serve fried chicken to his guests. He later apologized and claimed the remarks had been taken out of context.
At his own press call ahead of the PGA Championship, Lee Westwood, Garcia’s Ryder Cup teammate, refused to be drawn into the row saying he was friends with both players.
“It’s an awkward situation where they obviously just don’t get on. It’s in the public (domain) and you guys (the media) will stoke it up and you don’t need to,” he told reporters.
“I don’t think Tiger will be particularly bothered. I get on with both of them but I have no interest of getting in the middle of that relationship. It’s nothing to do with me.”
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